For a nice change of pace, the Republican presidential candidates met for their 8.476th debate of the 2008 primary race, but this time for Univision, translated into Spanish. Unlike their previous debate, the candidates played nice with each other and even with Hillary Clinton. The debate, therefore, hardly displayed much spice:
The Republican presidential field gingerly defended tough immigration policies before a Hispanic audience even as candidates acknowledged that their party has lost support from the fastest growing minority group in the U.S.
There were few differences voiced among the candidates and not a single candidate attacked any of his rivals, a sharp contrast to recent Republican debates.
Rather, it seemed that the evening was a discourse between the Republican Party and the Hispanic community, as moderators asked about immigration, health care, education and Latin American politics, and Republicans sought to show they shared values with their questioners even as they touted various tough policies to stem illegal migration here.
How dull was this debate? A look at the transcript reveals that not one candidate even bothered to mention the name "Hillary Clinton" during its entirety. Barack Obama did get a mention, criticized for his suggestion that he would meet with Fidel Castro and/or his brother Raul without preconditions. Even the few generic references to Democrats didn't hold all that much passion.
The Republicans came into the Univision debate with one mission: promote the GOP. The transcript doesn't reveal much in the way of campaigning as individuals, but instead a seven-man effort to convince Hispanic voters to go with the Republicans. Did it work? Possibly some voters might have been convinced, but only if they already had an inclination towards tough immigration policy and away from socialized medicine. The policies didn't change, and even John McCain talked about the necessity of securing the border before any kind of normalization.
However, they did make the effort, even if one needed No-Doze to get through it. They could have done the same with the Tavis Smiley debate on PBS with the African-American community in September. The format may make for dull television, but the outreach carries positive benefit to the GOP regardless.
UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has a good dissection of what she calls a panderfest. I'm not as bothered by it as Michelle, although I agree that we now will see calls for a Vietnamese-language debate, Tagalog, and maybe even Lakota. In reviewing the transcript, I didn't see much pandering on illegal immigration -- not even from the one man whose earlier views would have allowed him to do it.